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Last Batch of Notable Free Agents Remaining that Could Entice the Colts

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Even after making some major splashes this offseason, the Indianapolis Colts still have a projected $26 million of cap space available to potentially sign some impact free agents.

While some of the team’s offseason needs have already been addressed—namely quarterback, defensive tackle, and cornerback, there are still a few holes on their roster.

With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the notable free agents still remaining that could be a potential fit for the Colts:

Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Jadeveon Clowney, Edge, Seattle Seahawks

The former #1 overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft is by far the biggest difference-maker left in free agency right now—as a defensive standout who can drastically swing the pendulum for any defense’s success next season.

No, Clowney hasn’t quite lived up to his enormous hype coming out of South Carolina—where he was an absolute defensive monster as a pass rusher, having never reached double-digit sacks so far in his 6-year NFL career (although he came awfully close in 2017 with the Houston Texans as he had 9.5 sacks that season).

And yes, there are some durability concerns—as he’s only played a full 16 games in a regular season just once in 2017.

However, even though the basic stats don’t alway show it, the former 2nd-Team All-Pro and 3x Pro Bowler still makes a substantial defensive impact wherever he goes.

He’s coming off a sole season with the Seattle Seahawks in which he recorded 31 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 43 QB hurries, and an interception (returned for a touchdown) in 13 games (11 starts) in 2019.

However, that doesn’t paint entire picture of Clowney’s overall effectiveness.

Per Pro Football Focus (subscription), Clowney was their 11th best rated ‘edge defender’ overall with a +87.3 grade overall this past season—including a +80.8 grade against the run.

Since entering the league, the 27 year old all-around edge has always been a stout run defender, and his pass rushing prowess is better than his sack output generally indicates:

For a more detailed breakdown of the possibility of Clowney to the Colts, see this recent article—which I’ve already analyzed ad nauseam.

However, Clowney could become a younger, more talented, and athletic version of Colts’ veteran free agent Jabaal Sheard—as someone who could set the edge at defensive end against the ground game on run downs—while kicking inside to defensive tackle on passing downs with a combination of speed and power.

Along with the addition of All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, Clowney would help the Colts form one of the most dominant defensive lines in all of football—and a calling card and true identity for their defense—which would improve the whole unit collectively.

Colts general manager Chris Ballard has consistently preached about winning in the trenches too since his arrival in 2017.

Signing Clowney would go a long way towards achieving that.

The issue with Clowney right now isn’t that he isn’t a really good player—even arguably elite at times, but that he wants too much money. There’s speculation that he could hold out until training camp unless he gets the lucrative deal he’s hoping for.

It’s worth noting that his former team, the Seahawks, only have a projected $11.3 million of cap space currently, so a return seems unlikely without some serious salary cap restructuring.

If the Colts continue to stall with a large chunk of their salary cap space remaining, maybe there’s something actually brewing with Clowney—and a waiting game taking place.

Wild Card Round - Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Everson Griffen, Defensive Line, Minnesota Vikings

Originally a 2010 4th round pick of the Minnesota Vikings, the 32 year old was a veteran cut this offseason by the only team he’s spent his prior 10 NFL seasons with.

Griffen is coming off a season for the Vikings in which he recorded 41 tackles, 8.0 sacks, 44 QB hurries, and an interception in 15 starts during 2019.

Per Pro Football Focus, Griffen was their 29th best rated ‘edge defender’ with a +77.6 grade overall—featuring a +75.9 pass rushing grade.

Versatile Colts veteran free agent Jabaal Sheard is 6’3”, 268 pounds, whereas Griffen is a listed 6’3”, 273 pounds—meaning they’re pretty similar in stature along the defensive line.

Griffen could fulfill Sheard’s old role as a versatile defensive lineman who could play at defensive end on obvious running downs, while kicking in to defensive tackle as an interior pass rusher on passing downs at times.

He could rejoin his former Vikings’ veteran teammate, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, on a revamped Colts defense in 2020.

After all, the former 2nd-team All-Pro and 4x Pro Bowler looks like he still has plenty of fuel left in the tank and could be a “Justin Houston-like” veteran signing for the Colts drastically improved defensive line—along with their new All-Pro DeForest Buckner.

Cincinnati Bengals v Tennessee Titans Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Delanie Walker, Tight End, Tennessee Titans

Initially a 2006 6th round pick of the San Francisco 49ers, Walker has had an impressive NFL career—which has spanned 14 NFL seasons.

The 35 year old veteran tight end has battled a lingering ankle injury though over the past two seasons which has cost him 24 total games.

He had 21 receptions for 215 receiving yards (10.2 ypr. avg.) and 2 touchdown receptions for the Titans in 7 games (4 starts) last season—before being shut down for the season.

The 3x Pro Bowler hasn’t had a fully productive year since 2017, when he caught 74 receptions for 807 receiving yards (10.9 ypr. avg.) and 3 touchdown receptions in 16 games (11 starts) for the Titans.

Of course, the Colts know Walker all too well—having battled him as a familiar foe within the AFC South for the past 7 seasons.

The Colts could also use another tight end to pair with Pro Bowler Jack Doyle within their offense—as the franchise let fellow Pro Bowler Eric Ebron depart in free agency.

Walker’s advanced football age and durability are concerning—although it just appears to be his lingering ankle injury that’s the underlying issue, but the veteran tight end—who ranks 21st in NFL all-time career receiving yards (5,888) among all tight ends, could be a nice proven addition to the Colts offense for just 2020—as their second receiving tight end.

At 6’2”, 248 pounds, Walker could provide the Colts another big bodied red zone target for veteran starting quarterback Philip Rivers—who has historically loved throwing to his tight ends (see: Antonio Gates) in head coach Frank Reich’s offense—which always prominently features them.

For what it’s worth, the Colts have already reportedly been connected to Walker once this offseason.

However, perhaps spending a mid-round draft pick on a rookie tight end makes more sense.

Carolina Panthers v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Jabaal Sheard, Defensive Line, Indianapolis Colts

For all of this talk about Sheard’s potential replacements next season, why not just bring the veteran back himself?

The 30 year old defensive end is fresh off a season for the Colts in which he recorded 25 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 32 QB hurries, and 2 passes defensed in 13 games (12 starts) during 2019.

Per Pro Football Focus, Sheard was just their 112th best rated ‘edge defender’ with a +61.2 grade overall—but looking at the same graph shown earlier, maybe he was more effective than he’s actually been given credit for as a pass rusher—in what’s previously thought to have been a ‘down season’:

The versatile veteran defensive lineman has been a productive player for the Colts since his arrival in 2017 from the New England Patriots—making 44 starts for Indianapolis, and he already has a leg up on learning their defensive scheme and system.

It also seems likely that he’ll come much cheaper than either Clowney or Griffen on his next deal—given his age and presumed ‘down season’ last year.

The Colts already know what Sheard is better than anyone, it’s just a matter of whether they want to bring the veteran back at a reduced rate or seek a potential upgrade entirely.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Clay Matthews, Edge, Los Angeles Rams

The longtime former Green Bay Packers superstar is probably close to the twilight of his playing career—after largely 11 spectacular NFL seasons.

Matthews lasted just one season in Los Angeles, recording 37 tackles, 8.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 28 QB hurries, and 3 passes defensed in 13 starts during 2019.

Per Pro Football Focus, Matthews was their mere 150th best rated ‘edge defender’ with a +54.2 grade overall this past season.

That being said, the former 3x All-Pro, 6x Pro Bowler, and Super Bowl Champion can still be a situational impact pass rusher for his next NFL team—maybe even the Colts.

At 6’3”, 255 pounds, Matthews would assuredly transition to a part-time pass rushing defensive end with the Colts—utilized purely on passing downs—which would simplify his role (much like it did with Justin Houston) to just one thing (with his hand now on the ground): getting after the quarterback at all costs.

Now 33 years old, Matthews isn’t the same star player he once was with the Packers, but the NFL’s 46th career all-time sack leader—with 91.5 career sacks, still knows a thing or two about pressuring quarterbacks. After all, he still had 8.0 sacks as recently as last season.

In a part-time role, Matthews could join a mix of Colts’ pass rushers that already includes Justin Houston, Kemoko Turay, and Ben Banogu—proving a veteran impact pass rushing specialist that can be deployed situationally off the bench.

For what it’s worth, the Colts reportedly pursued Matthews last offseason, and their general manager Chris Ballard has already noted that he’d welcome a big name veteran voice “for friction” within his self-built locker room.

Matthews has always been a high intensity, high motor player who could provide some veteran leadership and situational pass rushing to the Colts defense—albeit in a more limited role than he’s been previously accustomed to.

NFL: Super Bowl LIV-San Francisco 49ers vs Kansas City Chiefs Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Person, Offensive Guard, San Francisco 49ers

This isn’t a sexy signing by any means, but it’s one that could pay off dividends down the road for the Colts’ interior offensive line depth in 2020.

The former Indianapolis Colts’ offensive guard/center made 4 starts for the Horseshoe back in 2017, but has since taken his talents to the Bay area—where he’s made 30 starts over the past two seasons—including most recently in this past year’s Super Bowl for the reigning NFC Champions.

The one-time 7th round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in 2011 had been an NFL journeyman before having a career renaissance over his past three seasons—which started in Indianapolis during 2017.

Specifically, Person was effective at center for the Colts in 2017, and last season, he was Pro Football Focus’ 72nd best rated offensive guard with a +61.8 grade overall.

Now 31 years old, the Colts wouldn’t be asking Person to start along their offensive line, but he could provide valuable veteran interior depth to a team that just lost its versatile swing-tackle Joe Haeg in free agency—and whose only veteran backup is offensive tackle Le’Raven Clark right now.

The veteran has 48 career starts under his belt—including in some big games.

Person could reunite with his former 49ers’ teammates, DeForest Buckner and Sheldon Day, in Indianapolis, although he probably wouldn’t look forward to blocking them again in practice—especially in Buckner’s case.

AFC Championship - New England Patriots v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Eric Berry, Safety, Kansas City Chiefs

The 5th overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft was once one of the league’s best safeties for Kansas City—as a 3x First-Team All-Pro and 5x Pro Bowler (2010-18).

However, he has only played in three games over the past three seasons—having suffered a season-ending torn Achilles in 2018 and an ensuing complication thereafter.

The 31 year old veteran safety spent all of last season rehabilitating and recovering—reportedly getting his body right, and the Colts have been connected to him already this offseason.

No one can doubt Berry’s ability to overcome adversity in life.

The former Chiefs’ captain overcame Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2014 and went on to win NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2015—as he returned and shined yet again for the Chiefs’ defense on the field as a beloved veteran in their locker room.

Maybe this is just his latest chapter in life to overcome the odds.

The Colts could use veteran insurance at safety given starter Malik Hooker’s lingering durability concerns—and that fellow veteran Clayton Geathers isn’t expected to return.

The team also likes to use three safeties situationally in its nickel packages.

Colts general manager Chris Ballard is obviously already familiar with Berry from his tenure with the Kansas City Chiefs previously before joining Indianapolis’ front office.

He knows what the veteran can bring to the table—if healthy.

Ballard already discussed the loss of veteran safety Mike Mitchell in the Colts’ locker room this past season. Perhaps Berry could help fill that veteran void in Indy.

That is, if the former Chiefs’ superstar safety has any fuel left in the tank from a playing perspective—great leadership aside.

NFL: New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Antoine Bethea, Safety, New York Giants

Speaking of beloved veteran safeties, there’s a familiar face available in free agency that needs no introduction as a former Super Bowl XLI Champion and 2x Pro Bowler previously with the Colts franchise.

It’s veteran safety Antoine Bethea—who spent his first 8 seasons in Indianapolis, making 123 career starts on some truly elite Colts teams—before departing in free agency in 2014.

The 2006 6th round pick out of Howard was one of Hall of Fame general manager Bill Polian’s best late round draft picks with the Colts, and he may have been one of the most under-appreciated members of their Super Bowl winning defense in 2006—as fellow Pro Bowl starting safety Bob Sanders garnered most of the national media attention.

Now 35 years old, the 14-year veteran has been remarkably durable and productive—despite playing one of the NFL’s most physically demanding positions.

He’s fresh off a season for the Giants in which he recorded 110 tackles, an interception, and 6 passes defensed in all 16 starts this past season—as a defensive captain for New York.

Per Pro Football Focus, he was their 57th best rated safety with a +69.4 grade overall, just two spots behind Hooker.

Having made 200 career starts, the 5’11”, 201 pound safety has a ton of playing experience, was always regarded as a defensive leader in the Colts locker room, and he’s already battle-tested in a ‘Cover 2’ defensive scheme—having played in one under Hall of Fame head coach Tony Dungy in Indianapolis previously.

As mentioned, the Colts could be looking for a veteran voice at safety to replace Mitchell and a reliable third-safety to play on the field all together.

Perhaps the Colts could ‘right a wrong’ here and bring back their veteran safety who arguably should’ve never left the franchise in the first place—allowing him to retire in Horsehoe blue as their veteran insurance policy for 2020.

Miami Dolphins v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Evan Boehm, Offensive Guard/Center, Miami Dolphins

Okay, so this probably isn’t a notable name, but if I’m going to type it, please read it.

The former 2016 4th round pick of the Arizona Cardinals bounced around to start his career—including a prior stint with the Los Angeles Rams.

However, the 6’3”, 321 pound interior offensive lineman finally found some career success in Indianapolis during 2018 when he was signed off the Rams’ practice squad—making 4 starts in place of injured Colts starting center Ryan Kelly that season.

Before the start of last season, Boehm was traded to the Miami Dolphins, and he made 8 starts for South Beach’s squad in 2019.

However, the 26 year old is now a free agent and has experience playing in the Colts offensive scheme—and they are no doubt already familiar with him.

Boehm could be a nice veteran backup interior offensive lineman to help replace Haeg and provide the Colts some starting experience (21 career starts) among the unit’s depth—at a presumed inexpensive cost.

Having already played for the Colts under head coach Frank Reich, his learning curve should be fairly low regarding grasping their protections and play calls too.